After The Damned reprinted–with color–the original Damned sequel now we’re getting a Damned prequel. Literally, it’s a prequel arc to the original Damned. And the first arc in this series. It seemed like the reprint of the sequel series–Prodigal Sons–was to set up the future, but it turns out it was to set up the past.
And it’s a fine past. I mean, it’s Bunn and Hurtt doing pre-Damned Eddie. He, Morgan, Wyrm, and Sophie (I really wish I remembered more about Wyrm and Sophie) are a thirties heist gang holding up the demons. But only Eddie and Morgan know about the demons. Their mom is still alive (albeit on her deathbed).
It’s a new kind of Eddie (an old kind) and some great back story for the relationship between him and Morgan. It seems world-buildy, something Bunn has always struggled with on The Damned. At least, until he got to this series.
The Hurtt art is gorgeous (and heart-breaking). The plotting’s good. It’s not what I was expecting, but it’s a good Damned comic. The Prodigal Sons reprint had me slightly wary. Not anymore.
Bad Ol’ Days, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.
So, following up on my Damned #6 post. Turns out Prodigal Sons is really just a reprint of the Prodigal Sons limited. It was underwhelming Damned sequel. This time with Bill Crabtree colors.
And, despite the awesome art and colors–Crabtree brings vibrancy to Hurtt’s action–despite those successes, Damned #7 (or Damned: Prodigal Sons Color Edition #2) reminds what’s wrong with the original comic.
It’s way too slight.
There’s a fight, a walking sequence, and a cliffhanger. Nothing else.
Eddie’s brother does the fight. There’s some awesome action, but nothing else. Eddie does the walking. It’s funny–his guide is this (mildly) sarcastic demon–but it’s just a walk. The cliffhanger is slight too.
In some ways, I’m glad. I’ve always thought I was too hard on Prodigal Sons, which kind of ruined The Damned brand back in the day. Hopefully this repeat won’t screw up the book too much. Bunn and Hurtt did magic with the first arc (surpassing the original Damned).
One more colorized rerun to go.
Prodigal Sons, Chapter 2; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Randal C. Jarrell and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.
Not only is Eddie’s baby brother back, this story arc of The Damned has the same title as the lackluster second series–Prodigal Sons.
Except now it’s great. Because Bunn’s learned how to do his exposition. He’s learned how to pace it, he’s learned what Hurtt does best and how to enable the best possible result. Damned has this easy visual flow, even when it’s disturbing subject matter; there’s only so much danger for protagonist Eddie, but there’s always only so much sympathy for him.
Damned is often fairly bright for noir, yet Bunn’s able to keep that distance from Eddie. The reader’s only so invested in Eddie as protagonist. There are a lot of forces moving around him–demons in this issue–who control things far more than he does. Or can even imagine. Eddie’s not a narrator but his unreliability extends to the reader… it’s impossible to get too worked up about him.
That being said, it’s easy to get worked up about the poor saps Eddie brings into his life, like his palooka brother. The brother, a giant boxer longshoreman type, is played sweet and innocent. He can handle himself in a fight against demons, but he’s a nice guy. Nothing like Eddie. So part of Damned is hoping Eddie isn’t screwing over the people you like.
And knowing there’s little chance he isn’t.
It’s such a good book. And Hurtt’s art is spectacular.
Prodigal Sons, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Charlie Chu and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.
The Damned finishes off its first arc, full of sadness and demons and misery. And beautiful Hurtt art. Achingly beautiful Hurtt art.
It’s a wonderful Eddie issue, following him around, everything else–the flashbacks, the subplots–happening in this completely different world. One with possibility. Eddie’s world, as usual, doesn’t have any. Even when he thinks it does.
Great writing from Bunn, which is particularly nice. As I recall the original Damned limited series didn’t end particularly well; this one’s reassuring. Bunn can close it down now, open a window. Such great dialogue throughout. It’s real good.
Ill-Gotten, Chapter 5; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Charlie Chu and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.
One of the things I always forget about The Damned is just what a shit protagonist Eddie can be. It’s part of the comic’s DNA. Luckily, Bunn hasn’t forgotten. Needless to say, no spoilers, but it’s an excellent issue. There’s an action sequence, there’s a soul-selling flashback, there’s demons, there’s rain–all things Hurtt excels at illustrating. There’s so much weight in every panel. Damned is haunted in the best possible way.
Ill-Gotten, Chapter 4; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.
Eddie takes his friend Pauly around town to talk to people about Pauly’s score and their deal for redemption. There’s some awesome demon stuff, some character development for Eddie, some excellent gangster banter courtesy Bunn, and, of course, the glorious Hurtt artwork. It’s a fine issue–laying hints for what’s to come–and it’s nice to see Bunn and Hurtt have found their Damned tone again.
Ill-Gotten, Chapter 3; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.
Bunn and Hurtt open the issue with an atmospheric, ominous ride in the car for Eddie. It turns out to be less immediately dramatic and more about Bunn setting up Damned as an ongoing series. Eddie exists in a world with a lot going on; it’s not all about him. As the issue goes on, maybe there’s a little bit too much world-building and exposition, but it’s for Hurtt art so one can’t complain too much. Bunn’s definitely filling the book with content.
Ill-Gotten, Chapter 2; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.
The Damned is back. Gloriously so. Brian Hurtt art. Gangsters and demons. Who cares if it’s good–it’s good, but when you see a double-page spread of Eddie’s club and it reminds of Casablanca all of a sudden, you know Hurtt’s enough to get it over any of the hurdles. And, really, the only hurdle is Cullen Bunn’s too talky narration. There’s lots and lots of it–which makes sense for the first issue of a relaunch–but it still gets tiring, sensical or not. The plotting’s good, the characters are good, the art’s wonderful. It’s so nice to have Damned back. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it.
Ill-Gotten, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.
Cullen Bunn really likes half-heard whispers. I mean, Harrow County itself is a half-heard whisper, if only because Bunn is making sure the other half of the whispers are completely inaudible. The reader goes into the story with more information than the protagonist, but neither has enough. And Bunn takes his time getting around to revealing it. One of the most effective things about this collection is how Bunn handles all the revelations.
When the book starts, he introduces the reader to protagonist Emmy. She lives on a farm in sometime in the indistinct, probably pre-WII past–automobiles but not everyone had electricity so maybe the twenties or thirties. It doesn’t matter because Emmy lives on the farm and doesn’t have much contact with the outside world. Just a weekly visit from a salesman and his daughter, who’s about Emmy’s age. They’re black, however, which Bunn uses to throw suspicion on Emmy’s father (either we aren’t supposed to like him because he’s racist or we aren’t supposed to like him because he’s suspicious).
Bunn does a fabulous job setting up the first issue because there’s no hint where the story is actually going. He still hasn’t given anyone–not Emmy, not the reader–enough information. When he does get around to doling it out, he reveals it at a pace to get up the reader’s expectations for upcoming scenes. It’s effective. Harrow County is an effective, well-structured comic book. Just because it has a cute little calf doesn’t mean it’s not a serious book.
Tyler Crook’s art is an essential, just because he handles Emmy’s innocence and determination so well. Her character has to develop through the collection while getting in dutch with the reader. Bunn gives her a lot of defining stuff real early on because the eventually Harrow County slows down a lot and goes scene-to-scene. Crook is able to speed up and slow down as needed. His establishing panels, utilizing foreground and background focus, are phenomenal. Crook handles the passage of time better than Bunn; whenever Bunn does it, there’s immediately a stronger reinforcement from Crook. It makes the book a bit of a treat to read, once it’s established, because of the way they’re able to deal with the events and the players. Harrow County doesn’t have any laughs, but it does have its humor.
And while Emmy’s the lead, Bunn’s narration is instead a close third person. Even though the narration doesn’t do any information dumps to get the reader caught up, it direct the reader’s attention. The story is about Emmy, Emmy is the protagonist (it’ll be interesting to see how Bunn handles Emmy being more active with this approach to narration), and the reader is sort of along for the ride. There’s a folk tale element to it all, with Emmy being the one who realizes the world’s not a folk tale.
As a first collection, Harrow County is a standout. It establishes its characters, quickly defines its setting, quickly defines its dangers, makes promises about what’s to come, plants expectations in the reader’s mind, has some great art. It even has an out of left field cliffhanger, but also one completely in line with the world Bunn and Crook set up. It’s interesting as the separate issues don’t have the same kind of cliffhanger–Bunn knows how to keep the reader interested. Not even guessing, just interested. And it works because Emmy’s such a strong character.
With the exception of forcing the reader to make judgment calls on characters (one time), Bunn’s writing is excellent. Even when he goes on too long with the narration, it pays off because of the art. Crook creates a terrifying, but acceptable vision. The boy without skin and skin without boy who end up as Emmy’s sidekicks–oh, forgot to mention, she’s a reincarnated witch who’s trying real hard not to be bad–they ought to be too disturbing, but Crook makes them somewhat adorable. Even if they are dangerous (possibly to Emmy).
Like I said, it’s a standout. Harrow County sets a high bar for itself.
Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Tyler Crook; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.